From Matt: Eliminating homelessness saves money, an in-depth study found; and Medicine Hat has successfully tried it out. The study, published last year, followed over 2000 homeless people across five major cities (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Moncton) – providing homes to roughly half of them. They found that homelessness costs roughly $100K per year for each homeless person – through interactions with the healthcare system, justice system and shelters, for example. In contrast, they found that providing a home to someone in a major city costs an average of $20K per year. Even factoring in the non-housing (healthcare, justice, etc.) costs of those people provided homes, the homes still saved 2 dollars or more for every dollar they cost.
The notion of providing homeless people with homes, no strings attached, calls to mind the idea of guaranteed minimum income – another seemingly liberal social welfare proposal that has won over many conservatives (Richard Nixon actually tried to implement it in the U.S. in 1969, but was thwarted, ironically, by the Democrats). Guaranteed minimum income involves the government supplementing the incomes of all citizens earning less than a guaranteed minimum amount (e.g., $2800 per month was recently proposed in Switzerland). As with guaranteed housing, the rationale is to reduce the need for other aspects of the social safety net – thereby saving money and improving outcomes on the aggregate. The conservative appeal of this type of social safety net is libertarian – people are guaranteed a certain income, but can choose to spend it as they wish (and the sizes of other government programs can be reduced).
Critics argue that such programs create disincentives to work, but pilot studies (e.g., in Manitoba in the 1970s) so far have found strong evidence of the benefits (e.g., better health and education outcomes, overall cost-savings), but little evidence of this hypothetical pitfall. At a time when governments across the world are struggling with high deficits and rising inequality in income and social outcomes, promising (and bipartisan) ideas like guaranteed housing and income – even if out-there – are probably worth considering.
Putting family on your CV. Many areas of academia still have ‘leaky pipelines’ – meaning that women are well-represented at the undergraduate level but represented increasingly poorly at higher levels. Part of the problem is the ‘baby penalty‘ – whereby having children during the critical graduate, postdoctoral and pre-tenure years (also the prime childbearing years) negatively affects women’s careers. Given that many, if not most, Canadian and American universities these days are becoming increasingly gender-conscious (e.g., a recent study found a 2:1 faculty hiring bias favoring women in most fields), I have long suspected that search committees’ blindness to most candidates’ parental leave histories is a big part of the problem – at least at the hiring level. If a committee looking at someone’s CV doesn’t know that they took time off for maternity (or paternity) leave, the CV could easily look like that of someone who was working the whole time, but was less productive.
One solution to this problem if for people to put their parental leaves (and other types of leaves) on their CVs. On Friday, the journal Science published the story of a woman who did just that – and she even calculated her pro-rated productivity equivalents (23 publications working an average of 55% time = 42 publication-equivalents). With this new CV, she had much more success on the job market than previously.
Needless to say, I strongly support the idea of putting parental leaves on CVs. Moreover, I think both men and women should do this. Aside from leveling the playing field, everyone documenting parental leaves on their CV would help to normalize the idea of being a successful academic while raising children (the recent #scimom hashtag has this aim as well). I think that fathers (#scidads) doing this, in addition to mothers, would help to normalize the idea that raising kids is a two-person job (and that it’s ok for men to take time off to help raise their children). Of course, paternity leave needs to be available for this to happen (and it should be).